How Your Resume May be Hurting Your Job Search

If you’re looking for a job and regularly sending out resumes and cover letters as well as completing applications but not getting interviews, the problem may be with your resume. According to the Wall Street journal, nearly 90% of fortune 500 companies use resume screening software which has a 75% rejection rate. Even in the event that your resume makes into the hands of a live person, they will initially spend less than 60 seconds reviewing it to decide whether you make it into the stack for further review or the pile of rejections.

Because of this, it may seem like the odds are stacked against you, but there are things that you can do to help level the playing field and get interviewed for the job you want. The information that follows will help you to correct most of the problems that cause resumes to get rejected. Once your resume is refined, getting the job is a matter of consistently completing applications, networking and following up with firms that have a need for your skills and experience.

Let’s review some of the most common issues that cause a resume to be rejected by human resources screening software as well as what to do about it. The first thing to take a look at is the font and formatting of the resume. You would think that if human resources screening software was sophisticated enough to sort out the best candidates for a job it could also interpret the multiple fonts and formats that the resumes are submitted in, but it can’t. In particular the software has problems with name and contact information being placed in the header block where it is often omitted by the software, which either rejects the resume as incomplete or passes the body of it on to the human on the other end without including who it belongs to. So, don’t list your name and contact information in the header block. Make sure it is contained in the text of the resume itself.

HR screening software also has a problem reading resumes written in Serif fonts. Serif are the fonts like Times new Roman that have scrolling at the ends of the letters. This causes misreads with the software and should be avoided when selecting the font for your resume. Use a sans serif font such as Tahoma or Verdana instead and you will have much better luck in getting your resume selected for further review.

Lastly in terms of font and formatting, you will want to include your actual address or at the very least the city, state and country you live in. This is because a company looking to hire a candidate may want to target people from a certain location because of their familiarity with local nuances, laws or proximity to large clients. There can be a multitude of reasons for this and if they have programmed it into the screening software and you have left your address out, your resume will get rejected. There is no reason to make this mistake, just include your address with the other contact information.

The next thing to consider when preparing your resume is the correct use of keywords and acronyms. When the applicant screening software is working its way through hundreds or thousands of resumes, one of the main things it’s looking for is keywords that match the description of the job in question as well as experience and number of years required. If you don’t know what keywords and acronyms are important for the job that you’re applying for, you should take the time to research them and find out what is relevant. Doing some work on the front end before writing the resume can make all the difference between getting selected or rejected.

Employers are interested in hiring candidates who are interested in and have knowledge of their industry. They want to see how much a candidate knows about their business and who they believe is motivated to do the job well not just on the day after they get hired, but day-in and day-out. The company is making an investment in an employee in terms of time, training and resolving any fallout from mistakes made from someone new to the job. A big part of the job for a hiring manager, is to minimize risk to the company. When it comes to spending company resources on a new hire, a manager is looking to reduce the risk by selecting a candidate who is familiar with the industry and has a genuine interest in the job.

You should make a list of the top 10 keyword for the job you’re looking for and the top 10 acronyms that are relevant to the industries you are targeting. Once you have these, make sure to incorporate them in the candidate summary, qualifications and work experience sections of your resume so that the screening software will pick them up when your resume is passed through. One trick with this is to get a copy of a few job descriptions for the job you are looking for and then review them to pull out the relevant keywords which you can then incorporate into your resume. One final note on this, is don’t make the mistake of trying to add the keywords in the white space at the end of the resume and then turn the font to white. There was a time when this was effective but now it is easily spotted by the software and considered to be an amateur move.

If you’re searching for a job as a medical device sales representative but have had previous jobs in landscaping or maintenance, most likely, you should not include that information on you resume because it’s not relevant to the job you are seeking. The exceptions to this would be if you are a recent graduate or have been out of work for some time and need to demonstrate motivation and a willingness to work.

If you took time off work to have kids or to go and experience living in another country, you may have work experience that dates back more than 20 years. If you have had consistent career progression and just took some time off, that’s one thing. However, if you have had multiple types of unrelated jobs, a lot of that experience may not be relevant. You may have to consider a functional or hybrid resume as opposed to chronological resume. Your education, skills and relevant experience may need to be presented in a format that can highlight how you are qualified for the job you are seeking as opposed to a track record of success if you don’t have one.

Next on the list of things to review is the email address you are using on your resume. Believe it or not, the email you use tells those who see it things about you. Both the name and the platform you use such as AOL, Yahoo or Gmail tell reviewers details about you such as your likely age bracket, education and level of sophistication. These details will get filed away in the back of their mind and will be used later as they attempt to develop an overall impression of you as a candidate for the job. So, you will want to choose and email address that is appropriate for professional use. Some variation of is always a good choice.

Lastly, and this should go without saying but you cannot have typos, misspellings or grammatical errors in your resume or cover letter. This has always been an issue because it makes a potential employer question your professionalism and attention to detail. With spell checking included in word processing software and resources such as Grammarly both the software and actual people looking at your resume are much less forgiving of errors than they ever have been. So, after you spend your time making the changes and updates like those suggested above, make sure to spell check then grammar check your resume and cover letter. After you have done that it is always a good idea to have one or two people review it just to make sure that any issues have been resolved. Once that is finished, you are ready to start approaching potential employers for the job you really want.

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